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Winnipeg school restructures its day to address absenteeism, improve learning

A Winnipeg school has restructured its school day to address learning and absenteeism.

Last week, Isaac Newton School changed its school-day structure so students will spend the majority of the day with one teacher and one classroom, rather than switching between teachers and classrooms throughout the day.

The school’s administration says they decided to make the switch after finding the time in-between classes was causing students to become distracted and disengaged with learning.

“During all of our class changes, we noticed that kids were connecting in the halls, socializing, and then maybe lingering just a little bit longer than we would like them to,” Isaac Newton vice-principal Julie Popke told Global News.

“And then they were not getting to their classes for the start of the next class.”

Alex Tahimic teaches his class of Grade 7 students at Isaac Newton School. Marney Blunt / Global News.

One week in, the teachers say they are already seeing the benefits, as it allows educators to better connect with students.

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“You are able to figure out the needs of the students – Both academically, socially – But often goes beyond that,” teacher Dan Edinborough said.

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“You can tell when a student is having an off-day because you’re able to tell what that student is like. You can tell if they’re being bullied, or maybe it’s something as simple as they missed breakfast that day or something like that. So there really are a lot of positives to being able to spend huge chunks of the day with students.”

The classes are also going out into the community more. Teacher Alex Tahimic is taking his students to a nearby elementary school for a reading buddies program.

“Our classroom, now it’s not just limited to our school. Our classroom now is the neighbourhood,” Tahimic said.

Tamara Stevenson, the school principal, says what students were doing between class, previously, was having an impact on absentee rates.

“They were in the building, but they were being marked absent because they weren’t in class,” Stevenson told Global News. “So we were getting them in the building. But we weren’t getting them in class.”

Isaac Newton School principal Tamara Stevenson says students were showing up to school, but were being marked absent because they weren’t coming to class. Marney Blunt / Global News

“Sometimes I would get distracted,” Grade 7 student Steven Tucker admitted. “Go with my friends, go get water, go see them in the class, I would get distracted easily. There were lots of students in the hallways and the stairwells, just walking around.”

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Tucker says it also became problematic at times, and would provide an opportunity for bullying.

“I’ve seen some kids getting into a fight, pushing around, just saying rude things to each other,” Tucker said.

Tucker, along with his other classmates, say they’ve noticed improvements since the change of the school day. Its also allowed him to focus more on his favourite subjects like science and ELA.

“There’s a lot less disruptions, distractions, there’s less kids in the hallway, there’s more work getting done,” Tucker said.

“Less chance for bullying and less chance for people to get hurt.”

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